Friday, April 15, 2011


Morris Island (Folly Beach), SC 1865
Yesterday was bi-polar. I started off in the morning in the 19th century circa 1861, heading to Ft. Moultrie to get some "different" photos of the sesquicentennial commemoration of the Battle of Ft. Sumter. I arrived at the fort to find all the encampees had been sported off to Ft. Sumter in the Charleston Harbor by the National Park Service to perform a reenactment of the surrender of the Ft. Sumter to Confederate forces.

The number of reenactors had dwindled as the week went on and the only folks left manning the camp at Ft. Moultrie were two Confederate reinactors both of whom had flown in from the South of England. So effectively Fort Moultrie was in British hands and subject to the crown again. I was photographing to have some images for a new outlet for creative/community/commercial aspirations, yet another blog EastoftheCooper .

For several days I'd been studying the images from the Civil War which were made on glass plates using the collodion process. The images from that period have their own unique look due to the exacting process. The collodion emulsion which coated the fragile glass plates was very sensitive to the blue segment of the visible light spectrum. This blue sensitivity rendered darker skin tones and blank skies. I was hoping to recreate the black and white tonality of those images, in camera, with the multitude of options available on 21st century cameras. It was an experiment to see if I could come close to replicating that Matthew Brady look.

Matthew Brady (date unknown
probably between 1855 -1870)
Brady and his employees were the most well known entourage of Civil War photographers who followed the Northern & Southern armies into their battles. Their photographs had to be developed in the field amid the carnage left behind.

Sesquicentennial  Battle of Ft. Sumter
Ft. Moultrie,  SC / 4-14-2011
The process from coating the glass with the emulsion to developing the image had to be completed within a ten minute time frame, before the glass plates dried. Almost all the photographs of the Civil War period were taken around encampments or showing the after effects of "a grand and glorious" war. The exposure time for the glass plates made it impossible to stop movement and subjects had to remain stationary even in the brightest sunlight. Exposures lasted from 15 seconds to 4 minutes, depending on the weather conditions (heat & humidity), the age and mix of the collodion and the nature of sunlight that day.

Later that evening my girlfriend & I ended up at a concert at the Pour House in Charleston watching Medeski & Martin after she won free tickets from a radio station call-in. This image is from the show. 150 years in a day.

Medeski & Martin (MAGO) at the Pour House, Charleston, SC 4-14-2011

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